A young white supremacist’s attack on a mosque in Bærum last year came amidst an alarming rise in the number of hate crimes against Muslims in recent years. As the mosque assailant’s trial started on Thursday, newspaper Aftenposten wrote how attacks on Muslims in Noway have doubled since 2016, and that only covers attacks reported to police.
The 22-year-old white supremist Philip Manshaus has admitted to firing shots inside the Al-Noor Islamic Centre at Skui in Bærum on August 10 last year. He also has acknowledged how he shot and killed his Chinese-born step-sister at the family’s home at Eiksmarka in Bærum just prior to his attack on the mosque.
He declared himself not guilty of the criminal charges against him, though, repeating earlier claims that he acted in a form of self-defense against what he views as “genocide of the white race.” He hates everyone who’s not white like himself.
State broadcaster NRK reported that Manshaus apologized in court for failing “to do more damage,” referring to how he didn’t kill anyone at the mostly empty mosque and ended up being wrestled to the ground by two elderly Muslim men who held him until police arrived. “I’m ashamed of that,” he said in court. “I acted impulsively, I was stressed and should have planned the attack better.”
Terror researchers have noted that Manshaus was widely ridiculed on right-wing extremist websites and within what Tore Bjørgo at the University of Oslo calls “a global subculture strongly characterized by racism and glorifying violence.” Bjørgo noted that “he didn’t manage to stream his attack live and he was outmanned by two old men. I doubt he’s viewed as a role model.”
Manshaus nonetheless claimed in court that he was “proud that I’ve had the opportunity to fight in a time when people deperately need help.” He also spoke at length about how everyone wanting to understand hatred of non-white people must read the so-called manifest of the Australian terrorist who massacred Muslims in New Zealand. He also claimed that both “Jews and socialists” also use their influence “to undermine European interests, through immigration.” He called homosexuality an illness and claimed that social media firms like Facebook and Twitter are behind “a coordinated attack on freedom of expression,” while authorities carry on “psychological warfare” by brainwashing young people and protecting minorities. All opposition to “the genocide of the white race” must be seen as self-defense, he argued.
Hate crimes rising
He’s by no means alone in his extremism or his attack on Muslims, according to Aftenposten. The number of hate crimes reported to police in Norway has risen from 175 in 2016 to 278 last year, while hate crimes directed at Muslims rose from 19 to 46. There have also been attacks involving anti-Semitism and a few against Christians and Sikhs, “but in the last two years, religious hate crimes reported to police have only targeted Muslims,” Ingjerd Hansen of the Oslo Police District told Aftenposten.
She’s convinced the actual number of hate crimes is much higher but that many if not most are not reported to police. Taxi drivers, for example, are “often” subjected to hateful expressions by passengers, but most don’t report it. “We also know that Muslim security guards at bars and nightclubs have also experienced episodes they don’t report,” Hansen said.
That may be changing, given the rise in reports in recent years. Sindre Bangstad, a researcher at the Kifo institute that studies views on religion, attributes the rise to a combination of actual increases in both attacks and reports of them.
“Negative prejudice against Muslims is rising in Norway,” Bangstad told Aftenposten. “There are more people out there who think Muslims will take over.” Such theories inspire others, as Manshaus was.
His trial is scheduled to run for the next 12 days at the Asker og Bærum Tingrett (courthouse) in Sandvika. Manshaus, who’s been deemed as mentally fit to stand trial, faces 21 years in prison, with a possibility that it be extended, possibly for life.